By now, you’ve heard the news. Syracuse lost to #25 Pitt 21-10. The defense was stellar once again and received an excellent grade in the postgame report card. The problem with this SU team through two games is the offense.
Syracuse fans collectively blame head coach Dino Babers, offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, and quarterback Tommy DeVito. In some cases, it’s the coaches not putting the players in positions to succeed. In others though, it’s on the players to execute. We know the defense is dominant, and if the offense can just do anything, this team could be 2-0.
Let’s dissect the offensive problems with film from the Pitt game.
It’s 3rd and 10, and SU is in a formation with trips [three receivers to the] right. Pitt is playing soft in coverage. DeVito takes the snap and scans the entirety of the field, looks at every receiver and doesn’t pull the trigger. Three of the four wideouts were open and he didn’t throw to a single one of them. This one’s on the quarterback, but the coaches need to stop keeping running backs in on pass protection. It’s a waste of personnel.
This one’s all on the coaching and scheme. It’s obvious Pat Narduzzi is dialing up the pressure on third and long. There are 6 Panthers just salivating at the line of scrimmage. If you’re Gilbert, Babers and DeVito, why not audible to something quick, or hot route? Instead, all four receivers are running long developing, vertical routes. No receivers complete their patterns and DeVito gets sacked. Why not take a page out of Pitt’s book and run a short out or something else underneath? It’s 3rd and 13 and you’re trying to run posts and verticals which have no shot of getting off with six coming on a blitz. Oh and again, why the heck is a running back in pass protection, send him to the flat here and you have something…
I don’t understand the disconnect on this play. Yes, finally we see the opportunity for a tight end to get involved, but DeVito just refuses to throw it his way. Benson chips the d-end then heads for the flat, looks at DeVito, but doesn’t get the pass. Now this may have been an out-and-up tight end wheel concept, but why not throw him the ball? Instead, DeVito gets sacked because he continues to hold onto it. But Gilbert, if you’re reading this right now, we need more of this from the tight ends, minus the wheel route.
This failed play is completely on player execution. This is beautiful design from the coaches and exactly what fans want to see. Use your talented running backs in space, not as blockers. It’s 4th & 3 in a crucial time in the game. Jawhar Jordan runs a wheel route to the near side and he’s absolutely wide open. DeVito is looking to that side of the field and once again just won’t throw it. Maybe Jordan wasn’t his first look there, but my question is why shouldn’t he be? Pitt’s linebackers have been playing soft in coverage all day and have no respect for the short passing game. More poor decision-making by DeVito and it results in a sack. But yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Aaron Servais got completely burnt. Well that wouldn’t have affected the play still if DeVito dumps this ball down to 25 in white.
Clearly DeVito is gun-shy in the pocket, and at the end of the day, can you blame him? The offensive line struggles have carried over from 2019 and he’s already been sacked enough for an entire season in two games. Still, these four plays are micro-examples of greater problems with this offense. The play calling and scheme aren’t putting the players in positions to succeed. and DeVito is missing open receivers, who struggle to get open in the first place. If something doesn’t change, Syracuse might not win a game all year, while wasting away a championship-level defense. Because in a time where average offenses are putting up at least 30 a game, SU can’t even get past 10.